There have been many famous and talented writers who had special pets in their lives.
- Mark Twain owned a “large and intensely black” cat named Bambino who went missing from his household when he lived in New York. This author offered a $5 reward for the return of his beloved pet. While the entire world lined up at his door with an assortment of cats just to meet the great Mr. Clemens, Bambino eventually returned of his own accord and saved his owner the reward money. I have two enormous black cats, so logically, I should be twice as amusing a writer as Mr. Clemens.
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s constant companion was a Cocker Spaniel named Flush. She was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. I have no talent for poetry, but I do own a Cocker Spaniel named George. Based on this connection, I hold out hope that I will one day wake up with a sudden ability to write lyrically.
- John Steinbeck had a near-final, handwritten draft of his classic work Of Mice and Men eaten by his dearly loved Irish setter, Toby. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.
In my opinion, every writer needs a Plott Hound. For most people, this is meant in the metaphorical sense – a muse who will inspire a plot that can be shaped into a compelling story. Few writers have literal Plott Hounds, mainly because they can be a handful. These dogs were bred for over 250 years in the hills of North Carolina to hunt bear, boar and other large game. If they’re not afraid of bears, they’re not afraid of you, so you need to be an experienced dog owner if you want to adopt a Plottie.
My Plott mix, Zackie-O, is unlikely to eat my Soul Search manuscript like Toby devoured John Steinbeck’s work, but this is only because I backed it up on a Google drive. Another copy resides on my laptop and I am not being one bit paranoid when I tell you that I fear for the safety of my electronic devices. When Zackie-O was a little younger, she stole my earpiece and left little bits of plastic and circuit board under a bed. Not too long after that, I had to replace my cell phone because two large bites in the case killed my ability to receive calls. The phone could call out just fine, but it would only produce a skirling noise when a call came in and nothing I did would allow the call to be picked up. I can only surmise that Zackie-O, after an initial dissection, developed an almost surgical skill when it came to disabling my electronics. A laptop is pretty big and you would think that it ought to be safe from a marauding Plott Hound, but that’s probably what the bears thought right before they got themselves treed.
Given this background information, why would I suggest that my Plott Hound is an introvert? In an unscientific poll on the Facebook group I Love My Plott Hound, half of Plott Hound enthusiasts identified their dogs as context dependent in terms of their behavior. Of the remaining poll takers, almost three times as many identified their hounds as extroverted (would approach a stranger with tail wagging) compared to introverted (wants nothing to do with strangers or just ignores them). If this finding on Plott behavior in a small sample can be extrapolated to the true population, my girl is an outlier. Her stranger behavior has been borne out over many search and rescue public events with meet and greets. Zackie-O has an interest in people’s scents, but after she gets a whiff of them, that’s enough for her. She allows herself to be petted because I ask her to do it, but she’s certainly not seeking out attention. In terms of interactions with other animals, she’s fine with our other pets (although she sometimes gets on George’s last nerve with her high energy and rambunctiousness). If strange dogs challenge her, she is completely unimpressed, even if they are significantly larger than her. I’m pretty sure she’d take on a bear, but I hope to never find out. Like most introverts, Zackie-O is a complex mix.
I live in a neighborhood dominated by golden retrievers, the extroverts of the dog world. Despite the fact that Zackie-O is an active search dog and performs a service for the community AND has a great deal more obedience training than your average family dog, the folks here always give her the hairy eyeball when I walk her. Because she’s a hound, she has a habit of nosing the ground and picking up all sorts of things when we go on a walk. To circumvent this behavior, she frequently carries a stuffed animal in her mouth. While I do not think she can necessarily compete for cuteness with the Staffy in the shower, she does have a charm of her own that goes completely unappreciated in this neighborhood. It is maybe for this reason that I felt compelled to immortalize Zackie-O’s playful and snarky nature in the psychopomp character in Soul Search.
As a practicing introvert, I have learned a great deal from Zackie-O on how to manage social situations that may become intrusive. If you meet me at one of these events and you are a raging extrovert, be careful not to stand too close.
Image credit: Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half
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